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Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman

Little wolvesWow, what an intense book, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I previewed this book. Lone Mountain, Minnesota is a community wracked by a startling act of violence by a troubled youth. At the center of the trauma are the Fallon, Gunderson, and Warren families, all of whom share complicated relationships that even they do not fully understand. Little Wolves is generally described as a farm-based murder mystery which includes folklore and Norse mythology to tell the story; I would describe the book as more of a Gothic horror novel which demands readers to contemplate the unseen horrors and every-day evils that surround all of us, even in seemingly safe communities. By the end of Maltman’s novel, which is not for the faint of heart, no one is left unscathed.

Letters to Zell by Camille Griep

Letters to ZellI’m a sucker for re-imagined fairy tales. This novel wonders what happens in the happily ever after ending of fairy tales by focusing on four iconic princesses and turning their familiar tales on their heads. In this reinterpretation of classic fables, Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty all struggle to find their own path in life after being let down by their happy endings. In this version Snow White is a foul-mouthed princess fascinated by Real Life; Cinderella is searching for professional fulfillment; Rapunzel has left her castle in order to move away to the country, and Sleeping Beauty is working to save her marriage. All four are modern girls experiencing a personal crisis and rely on their friends for support and to find their own strength.

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

My Name is Mary Sutter_alternateI really appreciated the author’s elegant use of language and evident historical research; Oliveira did such a good job describing the unsanitary and unsafe medical conditions of the time, I became squeamish reading the details. The interpersonal relationships and emotional entanglements sometimes verged on what would have been the melodramatic under different circumstances, in the context of the Civil War they felt fitting given the stress of the times. I admired the characters depicted in this historical novel, particularly Mary Sutter herself who encounter personal, medical, and political challenges at every turn. Our culture has changed so drastically since the Civil War and it is important to be reminded of the hardships faced by the country during those years.

The Boxer: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft by Reinhard Kleist

The BoxerThis is a highly unromantic and pragmatic Holocaust story; this is not a glorified history full flawless victims, born-evil captors, and fateful circumstances. This is a story of what we do to survive and how we are pressured to compromise ourselves by forces beyond our control to make it through the world. This graphic novel demonstrates the long-term effects of trauma on individuals, families, culture, and future generations. The accompanying artwork resonates with the intense feelings of a hard-fought life and supports the physical and emotional hardships experienced during the Holocaust. Ultimately, this is a story of love and reconciliation across generations, particularly between father and son.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir by Roz Chast

Can't we talk about...Roz Chast outlines the process of aging and dying in this culture and the way it exposes family dynamics by sharing her experience assisting her parents through their old age. Their story emphasizes the long of work of dying when there is access to sufficient supports. Chast honestly shares her struggles to care for her parents amongst the many stressors related to aging, including health problems, family history, and the financial commitment of long-term care. Chast’s awkwardly humorous drawings and photographs support the emotional impact of this impressive memoir. This book destigmatizes the struggle to care for aging family members.

How the World Was by Emmanuel Guibert

How the world wasThe artistic quality of How the World Was is impressive and includes detailed landscapes, deft interpretations of family photographs, and emotionally resonant representations the family at the core of this book. Early twentieth century California is a significant character that guides the narrative through the narrator’s childhood. Despite the fact that Alan Cope was recounting memories of his youth during his old age, the level of detail and resonance to his narrative is halting. What was most touching to me is the way in which the narrator reveals how he developed complex concepts as a child regarding death, religion, and self-image. This is a compelling story of an average childhood and a California that many of us wish we could have experienced for ourselves.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

Turn Right at Machu PicchuThis year we’re adding an Adult Book Club to our Summer Reading Program. Our theme is a Escape the Ordinary so we’re kicking things off with an Arm Chair Traveller’s Book Club and we’ll be reading Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams. Part history, part travelogue-memoir, this book is a fascinating blend of the past and present. The author follows the path of Hiram Bingham who brought Machu Picchu to the attention of the world after his 1911 visit. Many travelogues have an overriding sense of condescension, but this book avoids these pitfalls. Reading this book, I learned a lot about Incan culture, I gained a better understanding of Peruvian society, and the history of colonialism in Peru. Visit the Library’s Circulation Desk and sign-up for the Arm Chair Traveler’s Book Club!